The Science of Baking Cookies: Have It Your Way On National Homemade Cookies Day

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Photo by Molly Dunn
Soft-baked snickerdoodles are perfect for those who love a tender cookie.
There really isn't anything better than a homemade cookie, and today is the perfect day to celebrate, because it is National Homemade Cookies Day. It does seem odd to have this food holiday now rather than around Thanksgiving and Christmas, but you don't see us complaining.

While we could provide you with a list of homemade cookie recipes, we decided to tell you how to customize your cookies to your liking. Some of us want soft, fluffy cookies, while others love a crispy, crunchy one; with the simple addition or substitution of certain ingredients in a recipe, you can bake cookies with the exact flavor, texture and appearance you want. Baking is a science, after all.

To make things easy, let's use the Original Nestlé® Toll House® Chocolate Chip Cookies recipe; it's a classic and a wonderful base-cookie recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/4 cups All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups (12-oz. package) Nestlé® Toll House® Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels
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Photo by Molly Dunn
For thicker cookies, simply add an extra egg to the dough.
Thick Cookies

If you want a thick, dense cookie, you need to add ingredients that bind the cookie together as it bakes. Eggs are the perfect binding ingredient. Harold McGee, a food-science authority, writes in his book "Keys to Good Cooking: A Guide to Making the Best of Foods and Recipes" that eggs contribute to the overall structure of cookies because of the yolks, which add moisture to hold the entire cookie together. Add an extra egg to the cookie dough to keep the cookies from spreading on the pan while they bake.

Recipe variation: Use 3 eggs.

Crunchy Cookies

The best way to get that crunchy cookie is to increase the amount of granulated sugar and lower the amount of moisture. The coarse crystals in granulated sugar need moisture to dissolve, so if you add more granulated sugar, the cookie dough will have proportionally less moisture and the sugar will not dissolve completely, resulting in a crispy cookie.

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